G. William Winborn's criticism of Cyril Coallard's "Savage Nights" ("Dramatic, Passionate, Mad `Saving Nights' Scintillates," movie review, April 14, 1994 is, If I read him correctly, itself perhaps an example of our current level of spiritual consciousness which Collard's him tries hard to itself break through.
And while the epiphany at the film's end, as Windborn recognizes, is more rough sketch than any full rendering of a new dawn of wholeness (that sea, that night, that survey form land's ending of life's ending) these cliches perhaps more pointer to epiphany than believable rendering of it--I fell Collard's intent, even though never quite reached, makes necessary a rather more generous critique of "Savage Nights" that Winborn's eventual and, as I read him regretful dismissal.
There are so many elements in the film which Winborn sensitively and individually apprehends, such as his suspicion that Collard "believes Jean (Genet's) quotation `only violence can out an end to men's (violent?) way," as somehow as explanation of why "We get to see plenty of violence--domestic, sexual, racial" in the film. He describes some of these scenes, correctly says they have been deliberately chosen precisely for their shocking violence--but then does not connect these scenes to that Genet quotation even though the recognizes Collard likely somehow must.
Perhaps that "breakthrough to a new level of consciousness" might more fully explain Collard's use of violence.
For violence, particularly seen as sadism and masochism (and it might be argued Collard sees most violence as finally S & M), Collard presents as the inevitable ends of sensual lives, hedonism as its boundary: That need for constant novelty as the body jades finally in it mere sensual pleasures. For the true sensualist, uninhibited by and strong social conventions, who is drawn by his appetites alone, there is no end to that pit into which he falls.
Except, in this film, AIDS, which, as the constant threat of death, a death caused by this very exploitation of sexuality, the self-contradiction, the mortal self-contradiction of this exploration to the outermost of sensual consciousness is--to bring about the dilemma which is the storyline of the film, that is--a full exploration, through the three main characters (and the secondary as well) of how this threat of death alters their sensualist consciousness.
For as a disease spread precisely by the sexual act, by contact, all those questions of responsibility, all that personal fear now coming to include those others--all those questions must in someway be met (although suppression and denial may be offered among the other `answers').
And is this encounter, this denial, this slow growth, even this promise of an epiphany into a new level of concern and consciousness that we see take place in the film.
So how might one more fully read Genet's statement regarding "violence as the only end to violence?"
If violence is a state of consciousness, then the only "art" which that state might learn by, that age might learn by, is that which might shock it into attention, which would range widely over the field to show there is no exit from its endlessness except death--that only 'death' can 'save' its poor subjects.
And that death, in this film, in our times in our own lives, is that of a disease so violent itself and so growing and constant a threat in our awareness that it is itself the "violence" we all have to face and in that facing, somehow be saved.
Winborn is correct in virtually each of his separate apprehensions of this film, but it is finally in this individual separateness, this unconnectedness, wherein his otherwise able criticism fails its won good promise.
Which, in another sense, is I believe our mutual lacking in this "Age of Individual Separateness," and it is, I believe, the aim this film means to explore in all it tragedy, is all its limits, in all its violence: but also in that final bravery of its, admittedly somewhat still inchoate, hope. Jon King Harvard Dining Services Currier House